As I recently wandered through the field of grave sites in the American cemetery in Colleville-Sur Mer, Normandy, France, it struck me that the straight lines of white crosses -- 9,387 in all -- suggested symmetry that was far different from the chaos that faced each warrior who approached the beachhead on June 6, 1944.
As I looked over the precipice down at the sunlit and windswept beach, whitecaps painted a serene stretch of sand that could have been anywhere. Except this wasn't just any beach; it was Omaha beach. That contemplation and realization of what happened here left me more touched than I could have imagined.
My noticeably visceral reaction was heightened when a single jet fighter in flyby mode streaked overhead and dipped its wings.
I positioned myself under at tree at the edge of the cemetery and allowed my eyes to sweep over the seemingly endless panorama of grave markers. Someone waved to others while pointing to one of the crosses as a signal that who they were seeking was found. A small group with heads bowed huddled at a gravesite. An elderly man held a cane in one hand while his other hand wiped his eyes with a handkerchief as he walked away.
Just as during the heroic invasion, the gallant soldiers lay in repose for nearly sixty years under a dramatic array of crosses that remind us that, while some of us have the luxury of simply writing about or talking about the values that we hold dear, others are called to fight for and defend our freedoms.
As we continue to defend our freedoms on current and future battlegrounds, the grave sites in Normandy provide a stark reminder that some of those who answer the call on our behalf will pay the ultimate price. On this Memorial Day, remember. Examine those timeworn wartime photos and keepsakes. Contact a soldier or veteran, or just simply fly a flag.
And, most of all, give thanks.